I was away from home for a long time. After growing up in a small town, I graduated from high school and college early and left before I was twenty-one years old. I left emotionally long before that, after a traumatic event in my life caused me to withdraw from my school and friends. At little more than seventeen, I was already gone from those childhood friends to whom I had been closest. Even though I finished school in my hometown, I had little or no contact with them. The physical and emotional trauma didn’t involve them, but due to embarrassment and shock, I cut them off.
As soon as possible, I left my hometown and never looked back for over ten years. I had little contact with my childhood friends. I had gone to a very small private school through twelve grades, a laboratory model school on the local university campus. Each class was only 30 students. We knew each other well and were much like siblings. We were all extraordinarily sheltered. In order to survive after I left, I put them out of my mind for longer than I’d like to remember.
I eventually settled in a nearby city and through my job, my husband, and my efforts to seek an advanced education, I developed new friends. Good friends. Many of whom I still call my friends. Some my best friends. Except for a few, my childhood friends were lost to me by choice. In my rear view mirror. When I saw them, I saw the trauma I’d experienced.
As it happened, my parents still lived in my hometown and after my father passed away, my mother and other relatives were there alone. I returned there to work, but I didn’t live there. I commuted from the city. I didn’t seek out any of my childhood friends. I didn’t attend class get-togethers such as reunions. I went to work, cared for my relatives, and commuted back to the city. My career blossomed at the university in my hometown. Off and on, I would run into a friend from my past, but I still didn’t seek them out.
Through some accidents of fate, I ended up having to move back to my hometown to finish up the last third of my career. I built a house a few miles out of town, went to work, and still had my social life in the city. I traveled widely and knew people all over the world. I still did not attend class reunions, talked only rarely to childhood friends, and continued my life without them, except one or two. The trauma I had experienced was so bad that, even after decades, I could not see my childhood friends without remembering it.
Then, two years ago, a childhood friend sought me out when there was a reunion that was supposed to happen. She convinced me to attend. The reunion didn’t happen, but we continued our renewed friendship and that put me in contact with other friends. I began talking a little more to these friends. I was still not really comfortable, but I was trying. Recently, one of my classmate’s mother passed away. She was one of the mothers who I particularly loved when I was growing up and I loved her daughter as well. I decided after much reflection, to attend her funeral, knowing I would see a number of my childhood friends. I very much wanted to be there for her daughter.
I finally put my embarrassment over the trauma I’d experienced aside and went to the funeral. Not only did I see a number of my childhood friends but the funeral was in my childhood church. I was very glad I attended for my classmate whose mother had died, but it was also wonderful to see my friends. They were sweet and accepting even though I had been gone so long. It was also nice to see some of the townspeople I had long avoided and to be in my hometown church.
I’m very sad for my friend, Carla, and will miss knowing that her mother is in this world. But, I’m glad that I went to say my goodbyes to her mother and pay my final respects. It was the vehicle I needed, something I couldn’t miss, to reconnect with those people who helped make me who I am today. I’ve missed them.